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Bologna Europe Italy Travel Travel Guide

Bologna Travel Guide

It’s almost pointless recommending somewhere specific in Italy as a destination, because pretty much the entirety of Italy is a must visit. Honestly, is there anywhere you don’t want to go in this country steeped in history, art, stunning coastlines, hilly vistas and moreover – ridiculously good food and wine?

The latter brings me to Bologna, where I recently visited for four days over a long weekend for the sole purpose of eating. Bologna is the regional capital of Emilia-Romagna, an area closely situated to the north east of holiday favourite Tuscany, yet remains very much under the radar compared to the likes of Rome and Florence. The city has three nicknames: La Dotta, meaning ‘the learned one’, since Bologna is home of the oldest university in Europe; La Rossa, ‘the red one’, after the sea of red tiled roofs it houses; and La Grassa, ‘the fat one’, due to its reputation for a rich culinary history often singled out as making Bologna the best place to eat in Italy.



Pizza Pilgrims

There are plenty of places to get a brilliant pizza in London now, and constant debate around which is the best. Is it Homeslice with their gigantic pies to share? Or Naples’ very own export, L’Antica Pizzeria de Michele? I haven’t tried all of these rivals yet, but I can put in a well researched and firm vote for Pizza Pilgrims certainly being up there among the best.

One of London’s original street food vans to bricks and mortar success stories, there are now half a dozen Pizza Pilgrims restaurants over the city – a chain has formed. We’re seeing this happen a lot with our favourite street food places now, and the worry is whether the food we’ve grown to love, served out of a van in a car park, will stay the same. Switching from a small operation to building up an array of restaurants runs a risk of losing both the personality and quality of the business. Being a returning customer over the years, I’m impressed with the consistency of both of these factors: Pizza Pilgrims have succeeded.

Pizzas are of the Neapolitan style and made with as many ingredients local to Italy as can be. Flour is shipped from Naples istelf; the two different types of mozzarella are shipped from Caserta twice a week; their nduja arrives weekly from Calabria. Even the source of their basil has a kind of romance to it – it’s from down the road at Berwick Street market, the location of Pizza Pilgrims’ first foray into the food world. Quality ingredients are paramount, particularly in Italian cooking, and it is clear the level of care that continues to go into this side of the business, nearly six years on from them serving their first pizza. The result is the perfect pizza – better than some I’ve had in Italy, even. Puffed up crusts surrounding a sweet tomato base, oozing with mozzarella. It smells incredible.

There are a few changes to the menu between locations: their fantastic arancini wasn’t on the Dean Street menu last week, for which I wept, but in a genius move they’ve added crust dippers. If you can’t choose between pesto aioli, gorgonzola and garlic or smoked chilli jam mascarpone, they’re only two quid each so cut your decision making anxiety in half and get more than one. I’ll help you out further – whichever pizza you opt for (though I always seem to go for the salami with added nduja – highly recommend), add on buffalo mozzarella for an extra £2.75. It makes for a messier pizza but it’s totally worth it, and all the best food is messy anyway. Wine comes by the carafe (even the prosecco) and sides and desserts are kept simple – the main event here is the pizza and Pilgrims are devoted to delivering their specialty well and without distractions.

The story behind Pizza Pilgrims is a great one, and as you read about the brothers’ pint fueled agreement to give the street food scene a go, through to their six week pilgrimage around Italy in the name of research, you can’t help but cheer them on. Good job we can continue to do so, because Pizza Pilgrims are still serving up banging pizza to punters queuing out the door, no matter how much they’ve grown.

Multiple locations in London

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Europe Food From Travels Italy Parma

Ristorante Angiol d’or

As usual when on holiday, I want to eat outside. I want to sit under a parasol basking in the heat of the sun, sipping on a cold glass of something that will swiftly make me heady as I lazily watch the world go by around me. So if I hadn’t been recommended Ristorante Angiol d’or specifically, I would never have chosen to eat there – I may not have even noticed the place, the restaurant not having any tables spilling out onto the piazza where it lives. There is a covered indoor terrace area which I imagine would be lovely in the evening, but during the quiet of August on a Sunday lunchtime the main indoor area was the only option for a table. In hindsight, with temperatures nearing 40 degrees outside and the inside very much indulging in air con, this was nothing but a good thing. Besides, with a large open window looking straight onto Piazza del Duomo and the Baptistery of Parma beyond, you may as well have been outside.

Now I’d actually been sent off to Ristorante Angiol d’or with some specific dishes to order, and a couple of them blew me away so much I’m going to instruct you to do the same. To start off what will undoubtedly be an incredible meal, order the plate of Parma ham aged for 30 months because guys – you’re actually IN Parma, no excuses. Let’s face it, Parma ham is always good – in Parma it’s phenomenal. So soft – almost buttery – it practically melts in your mouth. Team this with another must order, the traditional fried bread (€4), and I guarantee you your eyes will roll back in your head whilst you eat. These fried breads are all puffed up and hollow inside, and whilst certainly fried, not greasy how you may imagine. Served hot, pulling them apart to stuff with parma ham and then washing it all down with a perfectly chilled locally produced glass of white is an experience I’d happily repeat each week. And as you may know by now I did dine alone on this trip, and yes, I ate it all – I couldn’t leave any of that Parma ham, though they do an assorted plate including salami, copper and cicciolata for the same price (€11), should you want to mix it up. Or hey, get both! When in Parma and all that.

As ever in Italy, I find it hard to manage the four courses that is standard for Italians – try as I might – and usually opt for either the ‘first course’ in the form of a pasta dish, or the skip straight to the meat course. I’d been recommended a pistachio encrusted beef burger which spiked my interest even though I would never usually order such a dish in Italy, but it wasn’t on the menu during my visit, so I opted for the more traditional gnocchi with duck ragout, julienne vegetables, spinach and thick shavings of parmesan (€12). A bit of a rogue choice for me as I would usually opt for ricotta tortellini (€10) and was admittedly tempted by the spaghetti carbonara done in the ‘Angiol d’Or’ style (€11), whatever that may be, but I learnt something about gnocchi that day. Gnocchi is supposed to be light. I genuinely had no idea that gnocchi can or should be anything other than the fairly stodgy situation we tend to get in the UK. It goes without saying the Italians would of course do it better, but just how well they do was somewhat of a revelation; it was a beautiful dish.

A fellow diner confided that the tiramisu was exemplary should you be so inclined,  but with no room for desert I settled on an espresso to perk me up for wandering through Parma during the afternoon heat. Because Italy is very much that grandmother who will insist on feeding you up as much as possible and then force leftovers into your hand as you leave, my espresso was served with morsels of cake and biscuits. The floury chocolate cake was particularly good.

When in Parma Ristorante Angiol d’or is a must, and it’s no surprise that it sits firmly in the Michelin Guide. Go hungry, and go with people so you can try as much as possible. Do not under any circumstances forget to order the fried bread. Thank me later.

Via Scutellari, 1, 43121 Parma PR, Italy
Closed Mondays and Tuesday lunchtimes

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Bologna Europe Food From Travels Italy


It is a truth universally acknowledged that you cannot go wrong with a food recommendation from a local, and after some of the top restaurants on my Bologna hit list turned out to be closed without warning for summer holidays (sob), I was lucky to have some extra tips to explore from my lovely Air BnB host, Marco.

Ideally, one of these recommendations happened to be right opposite my apartment in Mercato delle Erbe, the grocery market favoured with locals that dates back to 1910. The market has an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fresh handmade pasta, and also has several food stalls and cafes where locals flock to for lunch and dinner, tucked away to the side of the market stalls in the wings of the old building. If you saw Rick Stein’s Long Weekend in Bologna, Mercato delle Erbe may ring a bell: the market featured on  the tv show and was home to the location where Rick tried stuffed squid at Banco 32 – another restaurant also recommended by Marco, though I opted for his other tip in the market: Altro?

Altro? was the spot for my first meal in Italy on this trip, and what better way to start a weekend of eating your way around an Italian city than with a steaming bowl of tagliatelle al ragu (€10) and a couple of glasses of Sangiovese? Seeing as I came to Bologna specifically to eat, there was a lot riding on this first meal to live up to the high expectations I’d built up around the food of Bologna, and I wasn’t disappointed. Altro? served up one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had: the pasta fresh and perfectly cooked al dente (and you should hope so in the land of pasta), the ragu rich and plentiful. Parmesan served in a shaker on the table allows you to keep piling on the good stuff as you make your way through your meal as you go, something I appreciate over posher establishments where the waiter is in charge of your cheese distribution.

I was actually so impressed with Altro’s version of the most traditional of Bolognese dishes that I returned a few days later for another go at it. This time around I started with the burrata (€10), which hands down overtook what I thought was the best burrata I’ve had. Sitting in the cream sauce of two varieties of tomato, Altro’s was ‘eyes rolling to the back of your head’ good, particularly mopped up with the bowl of fresh sourdough brought over to me at the start of the meal. If you’re even the slightest fan of burrata, this dish is unmissable. Pleasingly, the tagliatelle al ragu that followed kept up the high calibre of a few days previous.

Whilst dishes here can be slightly higher in price than those in many of Bologna’s trattorias, the quality is clearly worth it. The food excelled, and I would happily return to try many of the other dishes on the menu. In hindsight I was particularly disappointed in myself to have not found room to try the desserts they had on offer. I would love to return in the evening in order to take longer over my meal and enjoy the atmosphere around Via Belvedere afterwards. In the evening, the restaurants of Mercato delle Erbe and the surrounding bars spill out onto the pedestrian street, animated with scores of young professionals drinking aperitivo into the night. The night time atmosphere is wonderful on this stretch, even in the quiet of August, and Altro is the perfect place to eat before settling into a night of Aperol in the balmy air. Returning to a restaurant in the relatively short space of a long weekend is something I never usually do, keen as I am to try many different places to eat as possible. In a city of unfailingly good food such as Bologna, it is the highest of accolades.

Mercato delle Erbe, Via Ugo Bassi, 23 – 25, 40121 Bologna, Italy
+39 351 014 4191
Open every day 8am – 12am except Sundays

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Pasta. The freshest of pasta made in house every day with homemade sauces and the very best of simple ingredients. That’s all you need to know, really. I’d heard about Padella via Sabrina Ghayour’s Instagram, and figured if Sabrina was a regular who raved about it, it was certainly worth trying. I trust Sabrina. Then one of my colleagues pounced on me one morning and went on and on and on about how it’s the best pasta he’s had in London, and he continued to hound me until I went. They were both right – this is without question some of the best Italian food I’ve had in the city.

I am a long time fan of a ‘small plates’ menu, mainly because I want to try everything in any given restaurant, which I think is totally acceptable. I don’t want to be tied down to one choice, suffering from food envy should my companion have chosen wiser than me. Luckily for me, restaurants going down the small plates route are hugely popular and opening at a rapid rate in London, and Padella is one of them, taking inspiration from traditional Italian small plates. Coming from the team behind Trullo (er hello, one look at that sample menu and I’m now desperate to visit), Padella is based on years of travelling through Italy making and eating a shit tonne of pappardelle. Sounds like the perfect excuse to open a pasta bar if you ask me.

After a 30 minute wait in line for a table (for Padella is one of those no reservations places we don’t mind so much in the summer months but cry about in the winter), we were fortunate to get a table outside on one of the last warm, sunny evenings in September. Vowing to eat as much as we could, we went in hard with an order of four dishes to share as a start to our meal. We went classic with cold meat and cheese with bread and salad – the simplest of European combinations that is always some kind of perfect. The salami was excellent and the burrata spot on (£5), but when is burrata not spot on? Next time I would opt for the spinach with chilli, garlic and anchovy (£5.50) over the radicchio, watercress and rocket salad (£5.50), though it’s not like we didn’t polish it off – the spinach just sounds more interesting. I have apparently memorised the beauty of Padella’s sourdough (£2), crunchy on the crust but so soft and warm on the inside, the perfect accompaniment to soaking up the Puglian olive oil it’s served with. A very solid start.

Despite a great start to our meal, the mains really did steal the show. The ricotta ravioli in sage butter (£7) came out on top, helped by the fact it’s one of my favourite dishes of all time, but therefore at high risk of being judged too harshly. It was second only to some ravioli I’ve had at a wedding in Tuscany, which I swear to God I can still taste if I close my eyes. The ravioli is a must order, as is the pappardelle with 8 hour Dexter beef shin ragu (£8.50), on par with that I’ve eaten in a Florentine trattoria. Tagliatelle with nduja, mascarpone and parsley (£5.50) was creamy but much spicier than expected – not necessarily a bad thing, and I am certainly one for spice, though I may substitute for fettuccine carbonara next time (£7.50). Or maybe just go with more people and get both? That’s probably a better idea. Also worth a mention – aforementioned colleague of mine still talks about their Taglierini with Dorset crab, chilli and lemon on a weekly basis, so there are two things we can take away from this: a) you cannot go far wrong choosing between any of the eight mains Padella offer, and b) we thank the pasta Gods once more that Padella is somewhere you are actively encouraged to order multiple dishes to share (around three or four dishes between two).

Desserts came in the form of a chocolate tart, an almond and blueberry tart or salted caramel ice cream. We tried the chocolate and ice cream, and whilst both were pleasant they did pale next to the high standard of the starters and mains, which is perhaps to be expected when the pasta is known to be the star of the show. And for all of this, wager how much the bill came to? Four dishes to start, three pastas, two desserts, and a very decent amount of wine, prosecco and Aperol came to £45pp including service. For this amount of food, I consider this a great deal in a city such as London, and for food of this quality, it’s heaven.

Despite being advised that the tables had a turn around of 1.5 hours per sitting, we didn’t feel rushed whilst we had our meal which is absolutely key. Service was friendly and accommodating, offering drinks to those waiting in the near constant queue that didn’t die down until gone 9pm. Sure, a queue can be off putting and I for one have little patience to wait outside in the cold, but the reward is a great one: a warm, friendly atmosphere with good wine and what surely must be some of London’s best pasta.

6 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TQ
Mon – Sat: 12-4pm; 5-10pm; Sun: 12-5pm

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Europe Florence Food From Travels Italy

Gelateria Santa Trinita

When I’m sitting mid-way through a tedious work week, my patience being tried and tested more than should be normal on a day to day basis, my mind inevitably wanders to my travels. To where I’d rather be. We all do it, be it dreaming of lying in the sun on a beach somewhere tropical or breathing in mountain air in the French Alps. There are many places I’d like to be, but today it happens to be sitting under the shade of the Duomo in Florence, reading a book whilst sipping on an aperol spritz before deciding to wander down to the river in the late afternoon sun. I’d walk past Ponte Vecchio and along the Arno, crossing at Ponte Santa Trinita for this: gelato from the aptly named Gelateria Santa Trinita.

Flashback to September: word of mouth has spread, my bed and breakfast host Biagio sending me to join the locals and tourists alike to try some of the best Florentine gelato. Biagio never was wrong with his recommendations. Italy isn’t short of good gelato, but this place deserves to be written about and ventured to.

Gelateria Santa Trinita make fresh flavours every day, with up to 38 different flavours of gelato, sorbet and even ice cream cake in the busy summer months, and they are constantly dreaming up new innovative flavours to go alongside the universally loved classics. As ever when it comes to ice cream, narrowing down the flavours becomes a challenge – at least it does for me, as I’ll want at least six. One I almost never steer from is Stracciatella, probably because you never seem to get it in England much, and if you do it’s never as good as its European counterparts. Creamy vanilla flavoured with chocolate chunks in it, it’s the perfect accompaniment to something a little punchier. Today that flavour is their signature, the Santa Trinita; mascarpone gelato swirled with hazelnut chocolate – essentially, swirled with nutella. Yes. A thousand times yes.

I think it must be some sort of unwritten rule to eat your gelato whilst sitting on the bridge overlooking the famous Ponte Vecchio in the distance. On the day I ate the best gelato in Florence, the sun was setting on the other side of the bridge I sat on, the city swiftly becoming one of my favourite places in the world. And when you can buy gelato that good for a few euros, who could blame me?

Piazza Frescobaldi, 11/12 R, Firenze, Italy
+39 055 238 1130

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Forza Win

A well executed, comforting, flavoursome meal with a glass of wine or beer in London for a tenner? Stop it. Named Awesome Sauce, that’s exactly what you get at Forza Win. Wednesdays are crowded in this converted cash and carry space in a car park in Peckham, and understandably. The menu is simple: a different pasta dish every week, vegetarian or meat, with a glass of wine or a cold Birra Moretti. If you feel like you want to throw some extra pounds at your evening, there’s always a side on offer and the non negotiable addition of truly excellent garlic sourdough bread – the kind where you’re wiping butter dribbling from your lips with every bite.

For such a bargain, the quality is high, but then that comes when you concentrate on a couple of dishes – you can do them well. I’ve been twice now, inevitably starting out the evening at one of my favourite bars in London, Bar Story, for their excellent happy hour. The cocktails at Bar Story are VERY good, and with a 2 for 1 happy hour every day between 6 and 7pm, a dangerous start to any evening. Good job Forza Win is a 5 minute meander away to mop up the damage with some well earned carbs. Although if you need gluten free, or if you’re just on a health kick , you can swap out your pasta for courgetti for a mere quid.

My first visit served up a delicious beef shin ragu, and my last was pork and lemon ragu, which I would never have thought to put together, but was well balanced and moreish as usual. They also serve up a sweet, often tiramisu (around £4), and it’s easy to see why people lazily hang around for a while over a couple of more drinks; the prices are good, the atmosphere buzzing and importantly, the staff are so very friendly and always seem to be having a good time.

The rest of the time, Forza Win runs a kind of supper club on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the first sitting at 7pm followed by a second at 9.30pm. The menu is seasonal, with the Spring edition featuring a minestrone to start, a primo course of pasta – linguine alla vongola this month, followed by lemon sole with blackened leeks, pecorino and olive oil for main and culminating in a blood orange and chocolate semifredo to finish. All this for £25, plus a well stocked bar available on the night featuring good Italian wines, beer and strong cocktails to boot. Sounds like one to add to The List if you ask me.

4.1, 133 Copeland Rd, London SE15 3SN
+4420 7732 9012

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Europe Florence Food From Travels Italy


This should really be titled ‘The Day I Ate Like A King’. After eating one of the best lunches of my life in Florence, I ended up eating a beautiful meal at Konnubio on my way back to my bed and breakfast seven hours later, and that day will forever be known to me as the day I ate like a king.

Konnubio was a recommendation from a friend of mine who has also stated it was the best meal of her trip to Florence. It was almost an after thought, spoilt as you are for choice in such a city, and I decided that only if it was on my way home would I stop there for dinner. Luckily for me and my laziness, it was. As the manager organised a table for one in the busy restaurant, I was handed a complimentary glass of prosecco, and as anyone who knows me will know, this is a sure fire way to my heart. Even before looking at the menu properly, I was sold.

I settled on beef, having tired myself of so many pasta dishes over my time in Italy (it’s a tough life). Specifically, I ordered peppered beef muscle (€16) with an accompaniment of the Tuscan beans, cooked in sage, garlic, olive oil and tomato, (€5) after the waiter convinced me that these two dishes complimented each other very well and not to be boring and order fries. He brought me a beautiful glass of red wine (€6) whilst I waited for my meal and then a little after that, that Wednesday in September became The Day I Ate Like A King.

The beef muscle tender and melting in a Chianti sauce, the simple Italian flavours from the Tuscan beans and sage adding a whole other level of taste sensation, the red wine washing it all down – this was superb food from Konnubio. As is so often the story with me, my only regret is that I didn’t have enough room to explore the dessert menu, and instead had to practically roll myself home. In Florence you are truly spoilt for choice on good food and I have scribbles of untouched recommendations prime for my next visit, but I would find it difficult to not revisit Konnubio in favour of somewhere new. Arrivederci, as they say.

Via dei Conti, 8r, Firenze, Italy
+39 055 238 1189

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Europe Florence Food From Travels Italy

Antica Trattoria da Tito

“Do you know the difference between restaurant and trattoria?”
My wonderful B&B host Biagio instantly launched into an explanation, “a trattoria is owned by family. Local! Traditional Tuscan – is very delicious. Trattoria da Tito is one of the very best in Florence. Restaurant is just…restaurant.”

Antica Trattoria da Tito turned out to be about five doors down from my B&B on via San Gallo. It’s a quiet street, less than five minutes walk around the corner from the home of Michelangelo’s David and just over ten minutes from the city’s spectacular Duomo. It being so close, I figured perhaps Biagio was purely recommending the trattoria to help out his neighbours, and yet when I walk down around 8.45pm on a Tuesday evening there is a queue out of the door and a waiting list. Luckily it’s only a half an hour wait, so I grab a glass of red wine and wait my turn for a meal in what is quite clearly not a struggling business down a quiet Florentine street after all.

My wait over, I’m led to a table towards the back of this bustling restaurant, Hotel California acting as the soundtrack to the electric atmosphere. This is the kind of restaurant – or, forgive me – trattoria,  where they explicitly say on their menus not to ask for your meat to be cooked more: “WE DON’T DO IT!!!” And don’t even think about asking for a cappuccino. This is true Italian authenticity, both in the food, the atmosphere and the service. Don’t mess with it. And why would you want to? The staff all look like they’re having ridiculous amounts of fun as they rush around serving with bright smiles, squeezing between each other at high speed, sharing quick jokes on the move and cheering raucously when one of their colleagues smashes a tray of glasses. They remember your name and they pull you the other side of the bar to do large shots of limoncello at the end of the night, before making you promise to return.

Smug with my choice to act on Biagio’s recommendation, I settled in to enjoy the buzz of laughing patrons at the tables around me, ordering half a litre of Chianti for a mere €6. An order of the tomato and basil bruschetta (€6.00) arrived shortly afterward, and I can confirm with confidence that it’s one of the most delicious bruschettas I’ve ever had. It was just so fresh. The perfect starter.

Next up was the wild boar pappardelle (€12.00), freshly made that day, as it is every day at Tito’s. It was as good as you would expect pasta to be in Italy, the simplicity of the dish delivered at high quality. The steaks and other mains such as traditional ossobuco being delivered to their tables looked amazing too, though I just can’t handle the amount of food Italians eat in one sitting, to my true despair. Which I guess just means I have to go back someday, as I promised. What a chore.

Via S. Gallo, 112, 50129 Firenze, Italy

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Europe Florence Food From Travels Italy

Il Santino

Writing this at my desk with a shitty salad on the cards for lunch is essentially torture, for a mere week ago I ate one of the best lunches I have ever eaten. Also, I was in Florence, which is infinitely preferable to sitting at a cubicle in a skyscraper in East London.

A wine bar that essentially specialises in Tuscan tapas, Il Santino sits just past sister restaurant Il Santo Bevitore, which is much bigger but have heard just as good tales about. I was the first one in Il Santino (technically I was five minutes early, keen as I was) yet within ten minutes all four of the small tables inside the wine bar were taken. This is clearly a hot destination for locals as well as for tourists in the know, for the two couples sat next to me were Australian.

The menu is in Italian, though the friendly owner happily offered to explain it to me in English. After a brief run down of the range of crostones (or crostini) and tartars they had on offer, as well as an enticing gesture toward the cheese and meat display, I ordered the pecorino, pancetta and honey crostini and asked him to pull together a selection of meats and cheeses on a platter as well. Holy mother of God. That crostini  is one of the most delicious things I’ve tasted in Europe, let alone Italy. And it cost…six euros. Six. Less than five pounds for one of the best things I’ve tasted on the continent…or perhaps the world, actually, the more I think about it. Fresh, thickly sliced, lightly toasted bread with melted pecorino cheese and fine slices of pancetta, drizzled in light honey. I honestly cannot believe I’ve gone my whole life without adding honey to meat and cheese, because it was a revelation. It was one of those meals that I can still taste now, and suspect I will always be able to, like the ricotta and spinach ravioli in sage butter at my friend’s Tuscan wedding, or Dishoom’s lamb raan bun.

The meat and cheese selection (€11) was expertly picked and assembled for me, the meat slice fresh from large hunks of pig leg mere metres away and paired with a beautiful chutney I forgot to ask the name of (still kicking myself about it now). The wine (€6 a glass) was of course, fantastic, because Italy, and the service wonderful.

Il Santino is the perfect hideaway from the harsh Tuscan high summer sun, be it for lunch by yourself with only a book and several glasses of crisp Pinot Grigio for company, or with a friend or partner crowded closely around a small table, whiling away the hours. It is some kind of heaven, and I implore you to go and have one of the best lunches of your life there, too.

 Via di Santo Spirito, 60, Firenze FI, Italy
+39 055 230 2820

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